The idiotplayers podcast is a caravanserai of conversations with important thinkers, be-ers and doers. The idiotplayers podcast aims to explore art, creativity and expression. If there is an elephant standing in the dark, as the Sufi story goes, we want to do more than grope and theorize. We invite conversations with people who aim from the heart to make practical, the far-reaching.
In episode 6 of the idiotplayers podcast we present part 2 of a conversation with George Bennett originally recorded on Sunday, October 16, 2011. Here the conversation turns to a discussion of some of the remarkable people George has met and the influence each has had upon him. He speaks personally and engagingly about these experiences while at the same time keeping a keen practical edge.
George Bennett was born in 1951, and was raised at Coombe Springs, the experimental spiritual community led by his father, JG Bennett. The ideas and practices of GI Gurdjieff, Subud, the Shivapuri Baba and Idris Shah formed some of the background of his childhood. After gaining a bachelors degree in history, George attended the third basic course run by JG Bennett at Sherborne in Gloucestershire, England. These ten-month courses were designed to give people an experience of the reality of the spiritual life, establish practices and spiritual ‘tools’ that could be developed over a lifetime, and to impart a sense of the spiritual task that confronts every individual, and humanity as a whole.
After Sherborne, George completed a masters degree in US history and then spent seven years as an international truck driver, an occupation that took him to countries across Eastern and Western Europe, and the Middle East. In 1982, having given up his driving career, George spent some months in the USA, where a visit to George and Mary Cornelius, long-time students of JG Bennett, reconnected him to ‘the Work’ as expounded by Bennett and Gurdjieff. Subsequently, George attended several seminars at the Cornelius’s institute in southern Oregon.
Working as a journalist in magazines specializing in trucks and transport, he learned the business of magazine publishing. He became editor of two magazines and, for a while, was responsible for the production of the market-leading ‘Car’ magazine in Britain. In 1990 George, with a business partner, bought the trucking titles he’d worked on from the Murdoch organization, and set up a small publishing company, which he co-owned for seven years before selling it in 1997. In 2001 George qualified as a school teacher and currently works as a 4th-6th grade teacher at The Village School, a small private elementary school set up twenty-two years ago by a group of Gurdjieff-Bennett students in Massachusetts, operating under the name Millers River Educational Cooperative (MREC).
Since the early 1990s, George has been involved in an international group running annual ‘Work’ seminars in the UK, and in 1994 he convened a conference at Claymont in West Virginia, on the twentieth anniversary of the death of JG Bennett. Some one hundred and fifty people attended the conference, mostly former students of Bennett who had taken his training as a point of departure, and had tried to develop their own understanding and methods of transmitting the ideas and practices of Bennett and Gurdjieff.
George currently helps to run a group in Boston, Massachusetts, but he remains convinced of the value of longer courses, to give people sustained experience of practical and spiritual work together. To that end he, with a small group including Elan Sicroff, the foremost specialist in the music of Gurdjieff and Thomas de Hartmann, initiated an experimental fourteen-week course in the fall of 2006 at Camp Caravan, a facility owned by MREC. This course was followed by a six-week ‘Intensive’ in the summer of 2010.
While it became clear that longer courses continue to have a real value, it is also apparent that people find it much harder than they did forty years ago to take a long period away from work or studies. As a result George, with a small group of collaborators, is currently experimenting with a series of shorter, ‘modular’ courses on specific aspects of the Work. The first of these two-week courses will be held at Camp Caravan in July of 2012. For further information, contact George on firstname.lastname@example.org.
jgbennett.net, Pak Subud, JG Bennett, Mrs. Annie Lou Staveley, George and Mary Cornelius, the reality of conscience, Ashiata Shiemash, Shivapuri Baba, Coombe Springs, Elizabeth Bennett, Idiots in Paris, Summer Intensive at Camp Caravan July 2012.
Music by the idiotplayers urgent carnival and advice to the drunk at heart.